Melissa Daniels warned against collecting salt on ancestral lands stolen from the Dene peoples

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo of salt plain on Dene lands.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) Chief Allan Adam has stated: “The Dene have resided in what is now called Wood Buffalo National Park for at least 11,000 years. Our people were forcibly removed from the area and their homes burnt to the ground by Parks Canada and the RCMP in the early 20th century.”

Following that forcible eviction, the park was established in 1922.

It will mark its centenary this coming December.

This ACFN report published in July 2021 notes: “Celebratory narratives about PNAs [protected nature areas] have often ignored the damage they inflict on Indigenous communities, who are usually displaced and dispossessed in the process of their creation.”

It adds: “This history had significant, damaging and intergenerational impacts on Denésuliné families and the community as a whole, which are still experienced to this day.”

Now, Melissa Daniels, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, has received a letter from Parks Canada ordering her to stop collecting about four litres of salt a season to use for her small business Naidié Nezų (good medicine).

Daniels says: “My experience is one small example of the injustice that has been perpetrated against our people for generations. Since the park’s creation, we have been violently driven from our land and seen our ancestral and treaty rights to the land restricted and denied.”

Daniels has also commented: “The implication that my land based, hand-harvested practice is a threat to the natural environment is insulting to me, our nation, our ancestors and the land itself.” Her company adds: “Parks Canada [has] allowed white settlers to commercially harvest fish, granite, lumber & even Buffalo from the Wood Buffalo National Park.”

We also recall that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued a warning to Canada that the park could be listed as a world heritage site in danger because of the impacts of the Site C hydroelectric dam and tar sands developments.

At that time, The Narwhal reported Parks Canada shirks UN request for review of Site C dam impacts on imperilled national park.

Conservation by dispossession

Naidié Nezų has stated: “People being forced off their land in the name of conservation is also part of colonialism.”

José Francisco Cali Tzay, who is Maya Kaqchikel from Guatemala and the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, has also commented: “Throughout conservation’s checkered history, we have seen exclusionary conservation as a gateway to human rights abuses and militarized forms of violence.”

We have raised this concern with respect to the 30 by 30 initiative backed by the “High Ambition Coalition” of countries, including Canada.

The non-profit environmental website Mongabay has explained: “‘30 by 30’ [is] a plan to conserve 30 per cent of Earth’s land and sea areas by 2030 through ‘area-based conservation measures’ like protected national parks.”

In its critique of the 30 by 30 plan, the Swift Foundation, says: “[It] is a militarized form of conservation. You have guards with guns, people imposing fines, building fences and kicking people out of their traditional lands. And if communities react in defense they are perceived as anti-conservation.”

We continue to follow this situation.

Naidié Nezų products are available here.

Naidié Nezų: “For those unfamiliar with our illegal bath salts, our Borealis Bath Blend contains sustainably harvested wild crafted botanicals & salt that were gifted to us from our ancestors & represents gorgeous relationships with the land we inherited. The salt is hand picked each summer from our giant salt flats with the utmost respect & care.”

Further reading: Canada backs 30 x 30 despite concerns of conservation by dispossession and the militarization of conservation (November 7, 2021)

Canada’s National Parks are Colonial Crime Scenes (Robert Jago, June 30, 2017)

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